Brexit and Camphill as a European and International MovementType: News
Topic: Brexit | Camphill
Published on: 18th September 2018
Our Director, Neil Henery, spoke at an event hosted by Voluntary Health Scotland on the 12th September in Edinburgh on the implications of leaving the EU for health and social care in Scotland. Neil was part of a panel that also included the Royal College of Physicians, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Changing Faces. After hearing a briefing from Erin McGinley, a Scottish Government researcher, on the potential impact of Brexit the panel members were given an opportunity to respond. Here is a summary of what Neil said:
Camphill is an international network of communities where people with learning disabilities and other support needs can find fulfilment through shared living, shared cultural life and meaningful work. In Scotland there are 11 communities providing education and social care to over 600 people with learning disabilities.
It is hard to imagine a more European and international movement than Camphill. Camphill was started in Scotland by Austrian Jewish refugees at the outbreak of the Second World War. It has now grown to around one hundred and nineteen communities in twenty five countries. There is a very interesting historical resonance between the founding of Camphill in 1940 and the situation we are in now. The founder of Camphill, Karl Konig, described the Camphill community as a seed that would preserve ‘the true European destiny’ at a time where fascism was breaking Europe apart.
As we heard, the proportion of other EU workers in the Scottish social care workforce is around 3%. In Camphill it is much, much more than this. A Camphill community typically has a core of long term workers – employed or vocational workers – and around this core there is a larger group of mostly young people who live and work in the communities as volunteers for around a year or 18 months. In 2016 there were 251 such volunteers in Camphill in Scotland and 170 of them were from other European countries. That is 68%. In addition, 20% of our employees are from other EU countries and 53% of the long term vocational workers. 40% of the total workforce is from other EU countries.
The international dimension is a fundamental part of Camphill identity. The opportunity to come to a different country and meet people of different nationalities is a big part of what makes the volunteering experience attractive. It is an opportunity for young people to test themselves, grow and develop as individuals.
Erin mentioned the BMA survey that highlighted the negative impact of the Brexit vote on doctors from other European countries with 45% now considering leaving the UK. When the Brexit vote became clear we also really felt it in Camphill. It was a real blow. People felt hurt and disappointed by it. We have made this point to many people and some shrug it off but they should speak to our European colleagues who were upset.
There are two ways in which Brexit can harm Camphill. It can put people off coming to Scotland to work here and it can make those who are already here want to leave. We are worried about both possibilities. That is why we have been doing a lot to raise the issue at the highest level.
Last year, we drafted an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would have obliged the UK Government to commission an independent evaluation of the impact of Brexit on the health and social care sector in the UK. Along with the Alliance for Health and Social Care, we led a group of 67 organisations in Scotland – including Voluntary Health Scotland and SCVO – in support of the amendment. We succeeded in having a debate on it in the House of Commons. It achieved cross party support but was defeated by 19 votes. We are currently aiming to bring it forward as a private member’s Bill.
I should say that 2018 has seen a further significant threat to the international dimension of Camphill with an additional squeeze on volunteers from outside the EU. From September 2017 to March 2018 there were 48 applications from international volunteers to come and work with us. 20 of these were refused. That represents an increase of 50% on the previous year. There would seem to be no change to the technical requirements in relation to the visas but the rules seem to be interpreted in a more unsympathetic way. For example, one applicant was asked whether she would be earning a wage while with Camphill. She said no but added that she would get £165 per month for living expenses. The visa was refused on the grounds that she would be earning a wage. £165 per month works out at £5 per day for living expenses! Surely, common sense should have prevailed here?
Our recent work has therefore sought to highlight both the threat from Brexit and the apparent squeeze on international volunteering from outside the EU. We have been very glad to have the support of SCVO, Volunteering Scotland, the Cyrenians and others to write to the current Home Secretary about our concerns and requesting a meeting with him to discuss the future of international volunteering. We have also raised our concerns with the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on Brexit, who wrote to David Davis on our behalf in relation to Brexit and international volunteers.
In conclusion, in my presentation I have highlighted the strong European identity of Camphill and the importance of international volunteering to us. There are over 600 people with learning disability who live and work in our communities in Scotland who tell us how much they value the contribution of our European and international workers. We are very glad to have the support of our colleagues in the third sector and across the social care and education sectors in Scotland in raising our concerns and seeking to preserve the international links that are so important to us.